05/11/2018 255 views

Justice for Roşia Montană! Roşia Montană voices to be heard in illegal Romanian gold mine litigation November 5, 2018 On Friday, November 2, 2018, public interest law organizations filed an amicus...
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George Ivascu

29/06/2018 23113 views

Romania’s Minister of Culture, the actor George Ivaşcu, has officially requested delaying Roşia Montană’s UNESCO World Heritage nomination procedure. The announcement comes just one day before the World Heritage Committee was to discuss the file at its 42nd session in Manama, Bahrain.

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The minister’s action is unprecedented and there exists no procedure for delaying a vote by the World Heritage Committee. What makes the matter even worse is that ICOMOS – an UNESCO expert advisory body – recommended Roşia Montană’s immediate inclusion on the World Heritage in Danger List, insisting that the site is vulnerable and requires urgent protection measures.

As a pretext for the delay George Ivaşcu mentioned the ongoing arbitration case between the Romanian State and Gabriel Resources and the later’s claim for $ 4.4 billion in damages. Such statements are irresponsible, manipulative, and merely endanger Romania’s position in the arbitration case. In fact, the only way this money will ever be paid is if Romanian officials agree to shove it, complicit, into the pockets of the Canadian company. Indeed, via his statements and actions, the minister for Culture Ivaşcu offered Gabriel Resources arguments that would give new credibility and weight to the company’s claims in the arbitration case. Victor Ponta made a similar gesture in 2013, saying that “if I did not do anything, I would have to pay, I do not know how many billions of damages to that company.” [1] The Prime Minister’s statement at that time is now being used by the mining company in the case to invoke the promises and assurances given by Romanian officials that the project will be approved.

Victor Ponta, Sulfina Barbu and Kelemen Hunor told us that they will save the heritage by dynamiting it. Traian Basescu proposed to treat pollution by creating a cyanide pond. Today, George Ivaşcu “protects” us in an arbitration case by providing arguments for the adversary and worse still, by sacrificing the millenary heritage he should have protected instead,” says Roxana Pencea from MiningWatch Romania.

The minister for Culture’s reasoning for delaying the nomination procedure is nothing other than a pretext. According to the legal expert, Dr. Marcos A. Orellana, associate professor at the George Washington University of Law, USA: “An inclusion of Rosia Montana to the World Heritage list does not jeopardize the position of the Romanian State in the arbitration case but would even bolster the defense of Romania, given that we are talking about a decision taken by the World Heritage Committee and not by representatives of Romania. ”

In light of the above, George Ivaşcu’s action can only be explained by his desire to protect the huge corruption involved in the Roşia Montană project. Indeed, since the inception of the arbitration procedure in 2015, Romania’s Government blocked all civil society requests asking for transparency and to publicly communicate its argumentation. From documents declassified by the Washington-based ICSID tribunal it is already clear that Gabriel Resources’ pleadings are based on denouncing acts and decisions taken by Romanian officials.

Victor Ponta, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, Mihai Tudose, Radu Berceanu, Kelemen Hunor, Sulfina Barbu, Traian Băsescu, Rovana Plumb, Dan Sova, Florin Iordache, Darius Vâlcov, Liviu Dragnea and Daniel Barbu are all directly invoked by Gabriel Resources in the arbitration case due to statements and endorsements made over the years.[3]

Mining Watch Romania strongly condemns the public manipulation that the Minister for Culture, the actor George Ivaşcu, is staging. At the same time it considers that they run against the interest of the Romanian citizens.

Who are you defending and on whose behalf, Mr. Ivaşcu? Which pockets do you actually referring to when mentioning the $4.4.bn? Aren’t you really just trying to save the skin of all those who signed prized decisions favoring the mining company, and who now are your colleagues in the ruling coalition? How will you be able to look into our eyes, after you have knowingly buried the chances of saving one of Romania’s most valuable monuments of universal value?”, adds Tudor Bradatan from MiningWatch Romania.

Given the severity of the developments, Mining Watch will initiate legal action demanding direct and personal damages from all relevant civil servants involved in the decision to delay the inclusion of Rosia Montana to the World Heritage List. The court action, which will be filed coming Monday, will be a class action open to all Romanian citizens who consider themselves affected by the decision of the Minister of Culture.

EndNotes:

[1] Arbitration request by Gabriel Resources:

[2] Full Statement by Dr. Marcos A. Orellana, Associate Professor of the George Washington University of Law, USA: “The file for World Heritage (WHC) listing has been prepared over many years and is not a response to the arbitration.  Therefore, the Tribunal should not consider the WHC listing as retaliation but as a measure in accordance with the World Heritage Convention.  A WHC listing could therefore strengthen the government’s defense because the protection of Rosia Montana would not just be a unilateral determination by Romania, but by the mechanisms of the WHC.”

[3] The list of Romanian officials directly quoted by Gabriel Resources to backup their claim in the arbitration case are:

  • Victor Ponta is quoted in the request for arbitration with his 2013 public statements stating that we will pay billions if Romania does not approve the mining project.
  • The same goes for order OUG102 / 2013 signed by Victor Ponta, Liviu Dragnea, Daniel Chituoiu, Maria Grappini and Titus Corlatean and
  • order GEO 195 / 22.12.2005 issued by Calin Popescu Tariceanu and Sulfina Barbu.
  • Dan Sova, Rovana Plumb, Daniel Barbu, Victor Ponta – are the initiators of the 2013 special bill declaring the Rosia Montana mine of overriding public interest so as to fast-track the mine and expropriations and of course, the stalled permitting procedures.
  • Reference is also made to the “non-technical committee” that was set up (the Special Commission led by Darius Vâlcov).
  • Florin Iordache was the brain behind a move by Parliament to force through an amendment of the mining law in favor of the Rosia Montana project owner. The bill received a favorable opinion the very night before the plenary vote by the parliamentary commission for Industry led by Iulian Iancu.
  • Public statements along the same lyrics used by Mr Ponta’s have repeatedly been made by  Traian Băsescu, Mihai Tudose and many others. Further names linked to the Rosia Montana gold mine proposal are Radu Berceanu and Calin Popescu Tariceanu.
  • Inconsistent decisions, unanswered promises and statements that changed from opposing to supporting the mine are manyfold. One pertinent examples the is the current leader of the UdMR party Kelemen Hunor, who when being minister for Culture pushed for Rosia Montana’s UNESCO nomination in 2010 and in 2013 entered a protocol with the Rosia Montana project owner in the amount USD 70 million.
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06/06/2018 6965 views

[Version française en bas] Rosia Montana/Romania, 6 June 2018 - “Last month ICOMOS, the body of UNESCO experts, confirmed what a great World Heritage site Rosia Montana could make. Today...
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12/10/2017 9188 views

12 October 2017 – The Ministry of Economy brought a new mining law under public debate, which resumes the provisions of the toxic law of 2013. The special law for Roșia Montană is back and is extended now to the whole mining industry (from stone quarries to uranium and copper mines).

“The Romanian Government and the mining industry do not give up the national expropriation law. A new draft bill was proposed, which is beneficial to Roșia Montană Gold Corporation, Deva Gold or Samax Romania alike. Organisations were excluded from the inter-ministerial work group during the new bill drafting process, so as not to interfere with the deals between Romanian officials and industry representatives”, said Roxana Pencea Brădățan of Mining Watch Romania.

Mining Watch Romania expressed their interest to participate in the ministerial work group as early as July 2016. However they were denied participation. “It is outrageous now to see in the explanatory statement that ‘all interested NGOS have participated, the Ministry of Economy being open to all their constructive proposals’”, added Roxana Pencea Brădățan. The Save Roșia Montană campaign and Mining Watch disapprove the way how the new bill was drafted, which excluded environmental organisations or those active in communities directly affected by mining.

Should this new law be adopted, the approval of the gold mining projects such as those in Certej, Roșia Montană or Rovina would be simplified. The Mining Law would become a vast collection of exemptions from legislation in force for the mining industry.

The project provisions have nothing to do with the purpose declared in the explanatory statement. Under the pretence of enhancing citizens’ safety, the draft bill actually operates changes which severely jeopardize the constitutional law protecting private property. Thus the draft bill provides a special category of mineral resources of strategic importance, the exploitation of which is considered to be of national interest and is declared of public benefit. The draft bill does not specify what are the resources in this category, and the very vague criteria established for a resource to fall under the category of strategic resources actually allow for every mineral resource to be considered as such. To quote from the original text, a resource of national interest is that resource which “contributes to the implementation of national interest”.

“This definition would allow the expropriation of all private properties on the lands required for developing mining operations (and even adjacent works of such operations). The draft bill also proposes a very simplified and accelerated expropriation procedure, which mining license holders may use in order to acquire ownership on the lands”, says lawyer Ștefania Simion.

Mining project approval has always lacked transparency: from granting licensing to signing association contracts and more recently to the Romanian state’s litigation with Gabriel Resources. Under the fake pretext of increasing transparency and citizen participation in decision making on mining license awards, the draft bill assigns a confidential character to all data and information on mining licenses.

Moreover, in the draft bill substantiation the ministry invokes the mining companies’ right to equal treatment by the law and to non-discrimination. Actually the draft bill gives these companies an absolutely disproportionate position and privileges, which have nothing to do with equality before the law. For instance mining companies would be exempted from the obligation to compensate in land plots the areas definitively removed from the national forestry real estate register.

This deregulation is so ridiculous that the monitoring of the way how the mining license operator complies with the conditions set in the mining construction permit falls under the responsibility of the… mining license holder!

 

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